Music Business

How Much Bigger Will Streaming Get? Projections For The Future

0001Although it's been a tough few years, streaming services seem to have endured the worst the music business can throw at them, and some have even begun dipping their toes in profitability. Here Hugh McIntyre explores where the future of streaming might be headed, and how much space the industry has to grow.


Guest post by Hugh McIntyre on Forbes

It’s no secret—nor surprise—that streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio and the select few others that have managed to survive the incredibly tough business they’ve chosen to be a part of have now started to enjoy the upswing in revenue and user numbers the entire industry is currently experiencing. It took several years, but streaming has finally taken off, and a true golden age seems to have just started.

The bleeding finally stopped for the music business just a year or so ago, when the entire global industry finally began making money and growing, instead of wondering when the end would arrive. In 2016, the streaming industry was collectively worth $7.6 billion, thanks to over 100 million paying customers and many millions more who opt to listen to ads instead of paying for a subscription. Subscribers are worth more to the services they listen to than their non-paying counterparts, but everybody is helping add to the overall billions brought in by the industry.

0001Those billions of dollars and millions of music lover are certainly all good news, but how much larger can the industry grow? A few forecasts have been released by reliable and influential music industry leaders that suggest there is still plenty of expanding to be done, and a lot more money to be made.

Two years back, an American hedge fund that invests in Vivendi, the company that owns Universal Music Group, released a report that suggested where the streaming industry may lie in 2020. Universal is currently the largest player in streaming, and thus the companies attached to it have a vested interest in seeing the titan perform well in this new music economy. The report suggests that by 2020, the global annual value of paid streaming music could reach as high as almost $16.5 billion. That would raise the entire net worth of the industry considerably, but of course, that’s not the end of the story.

A more recent report from MiDia Research, a U.K.-based boutique media and technology analysis company, has just shared the news that the future looks even brighter than it did just a few years ago. The company suggests that streaming revenue may pass the $20 billion mark in 2025 thanks to an incredible 336 million paid subscribers, with both user numbers and revenue almost tripling in less than a decade.


Is that as far as streaming will go? Is it possible that the industry might grow beyond $20 billion in revenue? At this point, it seems like anything could happen for the business, and in a few years, there will surely be different projections which point ever higher.

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  1. The question is what happens after Pandora, Spotify and Soundcloud go bankrupt? What happens to the lost leader companies – Google, Apple, Amazon? Do they continue to support a negative revenue model? Do they use their leverage to negotiate artists and label splits to virtually zero? or do they raise the price? or to they abandon the model?
    Streaming at $10/month is not a positive cash flow business for anyone as a of yet???
    It’s certainly not optimizing revenue for content creators. In fact it has crushed the value of content for content creators. First, Steve Jobs unbundled the album, then Spotify divided by 10 to 100. We need something/someone that understands multiplication!!!!
    Let’s talk about a business model that represents the interests of content creators and cleanses the ecosystem of greedy tech and legacy middlemen. Shall we?

  2. this is bullshit. It’s a paid narrative. They actually don’t mention the 10+ trillion songs illegally downloaded annually. But if you look at the numbers, nielson only tracks legal services, and they say 110 million is how many people listen to music online (free and paid combined). GTFOH. That’s about 900 million users missing. This is all paid narrative, meaning either this article is paid, or they are repeating the BS from the industry that started this bs narrative.
    They love to say “no one likes downloading music anymore”. When in fact THE DOWNLOAD is the MOST IMPORTANT METRIC FOR ANY ARTIST. If someone downloads your content (pay or free), it means they like it enough to probably buy something. Yet this metric and featured is being eliminated. And with google doing so many daily take downs, it’s practically impossible for the average user to find free music, so they deal with these streaming services, then the narrative is “look no one likes to download!”. No, it’s people like no viruses more than they like downloads. If all music was free to download, the streaming model would turn to what it’s supposed to be, a play button and an opening of a funnel to measure your plays (how many people checked your out) against more significant metrics that lead to conversions.
    Not to mention the totalitarian idea of paying for EACH AND EVERY PLAY CLICK is totally unsustainable. It’s like if I listen to LMFAO, to see how stupid their song is, they get paid off of it? A play does not represent someone ultimately liking your song, it can be someone checking it out, or someone playing it to make fun of it. That probably makes up 50-60% of all plays (if not more). So to build a model around a PLAY as it’s a definitive method to calculate that someone likes your song, thus paid for that play, is honestly the stupidest shit I’ve ever heard.

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